I go through phases when it comes to reading. Sometimes I read a lot. Sometimes not at all. Sometimes I go through a bunch of dystopian fiction, and other times I’m soaking up adventure / outdoor non-fiction. It usually depends on what mood I’m in at a particular time of the year. Same usually goes for TV, Film & Podcasts too.
This year I have been going through the dystopian / graphic novel books – Volume 2 and 3 of The Walking Dead Compendium, Cormac McCarthy’s The Road and Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale & The Testaments, to name a few. I’ve always been drawn to these stories, but I think this year more than ever, I feel like we’re closer to living these books, even just a little. COVID hasn’t produced a full-on Zombie Apocalypse and Trump hasn’t quite wound back the clock that much but it does help plant the seeds of “what if”.
When it comes to things related to the outdoors, I look to it for inspiration. I read / watch or listen with the hope of coming out of it feeling “shit, I want to do that” or to be in complete awe of the people in these stories (Endurance by Lansing). I Usually pick up one of these books when I’m getting the itch to go outdoors, or supplement the down after a trip. This year however I’ve been feeling pretty shitty about the outdoors and I’ve hardly been reading anything. I’ve not wanted to read/watch/listen to any content to do with being outside. I’ve actively avoided it. I didn’t realise I was doing it until recently when I started reading again and I realise that it was the case and how much I missed it. I then took some time to reflect on as to why I haven’t been reading these once inspiring stories and that I loved.
It has been a tough year for everyone and COVID19 has impacted our lives in many different ways. Some people have coped better than others and found ways to get through the year, some people have crashed and burned early, some late, and some still might do it in the future, but for me I think this avoidance of these books etc. has been a reflection of how I’ve been dealing with COVID19. Not the virus itself, let it be said, but the impact it’s had on our lives. Lockdowns, working from home, ever changing landscape of what we can or can’t do. And for me, essentially not having the control I once had over what I do.
I’ve been avoiding these books because I have been pretty damn down over the last few months. Not just down, but burnt-out, struggling with not being able to socialise or see people face to face, and sometimes not leaving the house for days. All has taken its toll. Inspirational, uplifting books about the thing you love sounds like something that would naturally draw ones attention to, especially in “times like these”. But for me, I’ve been avoiding it because unlike those graphic novels or dystopian futures, my adventure, non-fiction stories of great human endeavour and once in a life-time trips isn’t about escapism, it’s about realism. It’s about getting me to want to do that. And this year… I’ve not been about to do that. I have been avoiding these books because I feel I can’t channel the inspiration that I get from what I see or hear into action so I’ve just not bothered.
Now this isn’t quite true on paper however. I’ve on numerous trips with my girlfriend this year. We’ve been hiking and backpacking around Helm Creek (Garibaldi) & Sun Peaks, Paddleboarding in Squamish & Manning Park and done horseback riding in Pemberton and the Okanagan. In retrospect we’ve still done a fair bit, even if we are a few camping trips short of what we have done in the past / or would ideally like to do. Of course, these trips are snippets of time within a year of uncertainty, restriction and not being in full control of where we can go and when but being said this is largely true for all trips throughout the year, they are snippets of time. But my perception of this year is just a reflection of mental health over this time-period.
However, things are changing in my mental health and this has been reflected in my what I like to read, but also what I am doing. Firstly, I am doing much more in the outdoors, even more since Summer when things weren’t so bad (eased restrictions, lots of sun and sport was back on TV). Saturdays are now earmarked for the Grouse Snowshoe Grind with Maelys, Sundays are Trail Running todays, and I’ve been taking days off in the week to dedicate my time to doing something outside, whether it’s skiing, hiking or snowshoeing. I am now actively seeking books / magazines / podcasts and TV programmes again which allow me to be inspired! Now I have been getting some help here which has pointed me back in the right direction, but the first book that got it started again, was A History of Canada in 10 Maps by Adam Shoalts from which I since bought The Journals of Alexander Mackenzie: Exploring Across Canada in 1789 & 1793. I have been watching Search & Rescue: North Shore on the Knowledge Network about the North Shore Rescue here in North Van on The Knowledge network which after watching I feel pumped as ever to get outdoors and “be as good as they are” (how can you not be inspired by these great people that dedicate their lives to outdoor safety in your local area?). I am now adding back in Dirtbag Diaries and Outside Podcast into rotation of my even walks with our cat, Baker. I feel I can channel this inspiration – by actually doing stuff and getting my outdoor experiences, rather than feeling shit, bitter, jealous of others doing the things I can’t. Here I am now, writing again after quite a while, another sign of progress and moving into the right direction with my relationship to the outdoors and other people who are experiencing it. I’m looking forward to the Christmas break when we can plan trips, hikes & paddles, not because of external factors such as progress in the battle against COVID, but because I am making progress, allowing myself to take back control and being proactive.